Vanderbilt linebacker Oren Burks travelled to Atlanta this week to participate in activities associated with being a finalist for the prestigious Wooden Citizenship Cup.
Burks, a rising senior from Fairfax Station, Va., was one of four finalists for the 13th annual Wooden Citizenship Cup, presented by Athletics for a Better World. The award, named for legendary UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden, is given to the most outstanding role models in sports. Collegiate, professional and high school recipients of the Wooden Citizenship Cup.
At an awards banquet Tuesday in Atlanta, Burks was honored for his work as a leader on the Vanderbilt campus and among its student-athlete population, as well as his involvement with a various of service efforts in the Nashville community.
"I am extremely grateful and excited to represent Vanderbilt University at the Wooden Cup activities over the next couple days," Burks said. "Simply being considered for this award is a huge honor and I cannot thank my family, teammates and friends enough for their support.
"As I learn about the three other finalists, I am amazed at the things they have been able to accomplish to truly make an impact in this world," he added.
The collegiate Wooden Citizenship Cup award was presented by University of Illinois offensive lineman Joe Spencer. Joining Burks as finalists were Spencer, Mills (Calif.) College swimmer Melissa Berkay and Xavier (Ohio) University soccer player Tori Doss.
During the two-day visit to Atlanta, Burks and other Wooden Cup finalists toured the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Site and Ebenezer Baptist Church where King served as pastor, and participated in a forum on homelessness in the city.
Before the banquet Thursday, Burks also met privately with ESPN college basketball commentator Dick Vitale, who was honored as the 2017 Wooden Citizenship Cup professional recipient.
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said Burks was a very deserving recipient of the Wooden Cup award.
"Oren has distinguished himself as a collegiate student-athlete. Oren has been a very productive player and leader for our football team. Off the field, he's had a tremendously positive impact on Vanderbilt University and our community. Oren's been a great example to all who know him," Mason said.
Burks' impact on the Vanderbilt campus and surrounding community has been lauded on several fronts. Last July Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey singled out Burks for his activities at the league's Media Day festivities. In October, he became a finalist for Vanderbilt's coveted Outstanding Senior Award. In December, Burks was named to the 22-player Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) national FBS Good Works Team.
Two years ago, Burks and other students formed Revitalizing and Empowering Vanderbilt's African-American Male Population (REVAMP). In 2016, with Burks in the role of events coordinator, REVAMP was named Vanderbilt's most outstanding student organization following a series of successful activities.
Burks also serves as president of the Vanderbilt Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) where he supports athletes' community outreach projects and acts as a liaison between the Commodore athlete population and Vanderbilt administrators.
In the past year, Burks has organized donation drives as an intern with Soles4Souls, the highly successful international non-profit headquartered in Nashville. He has also been active with Project Safe Center on campus, helping educate other students about sexual assault and domestic violence.
On the field, Burks served as a defensive co-captain for the 2016 Commodore football team, starting at outside linebacker after playing safety in the 2014-15 seasons. He has amassed 155 total tackles and three interceptions in 29 career starts, including 11 starts in 2016.
A three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll recipient, Burks is working toward an undergraduate degree in human and organizational development.